Monday, November 06, 2006

Wedding & Honeymoon, Part 1: Before the Wedding

Sorry it's taken me so long to update the blog—there's been literally no time, since so much of our free time has been spent doing necessary newlywed things, like changing Nicole's name on every account she's ever had, driving 10 hours (each way) to another shower in Texas, etc.

So I'll start with the first day we took off from work, which was Friday the 20th. I'll add all of the pictures to this later on, or I'll put them all in another post.

Friday: Family and The Wedding Party Arrive

Since Nicole and I didn't have to work today, we were able to sleep in a little bit later than usual before getting up to do our last minute preparations. Not much later, though. I need to admit that now that it's been a couple of weeks, my recollection is a bit fuzzier of today's events. All I remember of that morning is picking up the candelabras from the rental place, and visiting Nicole at the manicure place a couple of times.

Dave, my best man, had missed his Thursday flight to Tulsa, so he had had to catch a red-eye to Chicago and try to get a standby flight at 8:30 in the morning. If he couldn't get that one, it would have been 2:45 before he could have left to get just to Tulsa, not to mention the two hour drive from there to Carthage. Thankfully, he got the a.m. flight and called me when he was getting close to town in his rental car. I met him at the church, and we immediately began the drive back to Tulsa to pick up my family.

The two hours it took to get there were awesome. It was uneventful, but I really enjoyed being able to hang out with Dave again. Outside of Nicole and the immediate family, I have literally nobody to hang out with. It's been good in the sense that I've been able to get to know Nicole so much better (if you recall, we had a long-distance relationship for months before I moved here), but as a guy, especially in a small town where the activity options are fewer than in the city, I just need some guy peers to hang out with. So that trip was good.

We pulled into Tulsa much later than I'd originally hoped—I'd planned for 12:45 or so, but it was more like 3:30—and found my niece, my dad, my mom and her husband waiting by the curb at the airport with all of their luggage. This was good because Dad's flight came in two hours later than everyone else, and with them all together, we could load up quickly and go. We hit some nasty traffic where I-244 joins I-44, but we still got through it okay. At one point later on, everyone in the van was sleeping except my dad and I, and he was in the far back seat of the van while I was driving. I laughed to myself about that.

We all stopped in Vinita at the self-proclaimed Largest McDonald's in the World, which of course nobody was impressed with. ("They could at least have more than one counter to order from." - Dad) We arrived at the hotel a little while later and got everyone checked in. My other two groomsmen, John and Dan, each got to the hotel just minutes before us, which was nice timing. John had flown into Chicago the night before and came down with his girlfriend Emily; Dan and his wife Samantha had driven to about St. Louis on Thursday and made the rest of the trip Friday.

After a little while, we got everyone together and headed over to the church for the rehearsal dinner. My family met Nicole's family for the first time, and much to Nicole's and my delight, there was a lot of smiles and love all around the place. We had a wonderful dinner of ribs and brisket, and everyone at dinner was formally introduced, then we had our rehearsal. Emily was a good sport to pretend to be the bride while Nicole surveyed the scene. Surprisingly, I still wasn't feeling any nerves at all, and I don't think Nicole did, either.

Friday: Out With the Guys (and Gals)

After the rehearsal, we took everyone back to the hotel in Joplin and I said good night to my family.

Then, Dave, John, Emily, Dan, Sam and I began to look for a place in Joplin to hang out, shoot pool, throw darts, whatever for my last night as a single man. The first place we came across was just closing (10:00 on a Friday?), but the last customers out the door told us of another place we could go.

We drove over to a place called J-Town, which is a big pool hall and bar set in an old supermarket building. There were lots of Camaros and big pickups in the parking lot, and there was a couple having an argument a few cars over from where we parked. Not a good sign. We walked in and stood there briefly in the cloud of cigarette smoke and bad music before deciding to leave.

On the way to J-Town, we’d spotted a little tavern called Murphy’s Irish Pub, but had passed it by. We drove back there to check it out, and I had expected to find a place where the average age of patrons and staff were 55. Instead, it was a younger (30’s) crowd, which made us feel a little bit better. There were two pool tables that never opened up, and karaoke singing in the corner. My friends thought it would be funny to get me to sing karaoke, so they grabbed the songbook and looked for a good tune. There weren’t any good ones, but I did see a funny one: Rich Mullins’ “Awesome God.” Imagine singing that one in a pub! “Everybody raise your beers and sing it! Our God is an awesome God, He reigns....” Well, the novelty of me singing wore off when we realized that there was always a long line for the microphone, so we basically just stood around for a while before leaving. So, no pool and no darts, and no singing, but plenty of whatever.And I didn't care about that, because I was so happy to be hanging out with my buddies again.

Back at the hotel, Dave, Dan and I had a few laughs in the hallway (basically, we acted like 7-year-olds, making faces and talking funny to crack each other up) before I went home. At home, I was surprised to find Nicole and her bridesmaids still awake, downstairs where I was supposed to sleep. Oh, no! I mustn’t see the bride before the wedding day! We somehow managed to keep separate for a little while, until we accidentally saw each other as she was going upstairs. So, since I had already broken that tradition, I figured I’d call her back down to talk to her. We told each other how our evenings had been, and then we had an awesome time in prayer. That’s my advice to any couple who are about to get married: Instead of avoiding each other for the sake of tradition (and luck?), set aside a period of time on the eve of your wedding to pray—just the two of you and God spending time together on your last night of singlehood.